Software on smartphones, computers, and commercial equipment is rife with defects. While tech companies regularly update products to fix known vulnerabilities, these flaws give attackers new ways of infiltrating emails, corporate networks, or critical systems.

It’s not just malicious hackers who use vulnerabilities. Cybersecurity firms, tech companies, law enforcement agencies, defense contractors, and government agencies take advantage of them, too. Security flaws may give federal agents ways to infiltrate terrorists’ digital communications or track criminals’ smartphones. They can also be deployed to spy on journalists, activists, and dissidents. And because vulnerabilities are so valuable, the hunt for them is driving a multimillion dollar industry.

In a joint project between The Christian Science Monitor’s Passcode team and the Medill School of Journalism, we explore the growing arms race to discover software vulnerabilities – and what it means for national security and everyone’s digital privacy and safety.

Sen. Ron Wyden: A voice on digital privacy issues

On Capitol Hill, Wyden is one of most active voices on digital privacy issues, specifically when it comes to protecting civil liberties. First elected to the Senate in 1996, the Democratic senator from Oregon has served on the Select Committee on Intelligence and worked on bills to reduce and regulate government surveillance and hacking.

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